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A sennet sounded. Enter CÆSAR, ANTONY, POMPEY, LE
PIDUS, AGRIPPA, MECÆNAS, ENOBARBUS, MENAS,
flow o' the Nile
Lep. You have strange serpents there.
They take the flow o' the Nile-] Pliny, speaking of the Nile, says,
How high it riseth, is knowne by markes and measures taken of certain pits. The ordinary height of it is sixteen cubites. Under that gage, the waters overflow not all. Above that stint, there are a let and hindrance, by reason that the later it is ere they bee fallen and downe againe. By these the secdtime is much of it spent, for that the earth is too wet. By the other there is none at all, by reason that the ground is drie and thirstie. The province taketh good keepe and reckoning of both, the one as well as the other. For when it is no higher than 12 cubites, it findeth extreame fumine: yea, and at 13 it feeleth hunger sull; 14 cubites conforts their hearts, 15 bids them take no care, but 16 affordeth them plentie and delicious dainties. So soone as any part of the land is freed from the water, streight waies it is sowed.” Philemon Holland's Translation, 1601, B. V, c. ix. Reed.
Shakspeare seems rather to have derived his knowledge of this fact from Leo's History of Africa, translated by John Pory, folio, 1600: “Upon another side of the island standeth an house alone by itselfe, in the midst whereof there is a foure square cesterne or channel of eighteen cubits deep, whereinto the water of Nilus is conveyed by a certaine sluice under ground. And in the midst of the cesterne there is erected a certaine piłler, which is marked and divided into so many cubits as the cisterne containeth in depth. And upon the seventeenth of June, when Nilus beginning to overflow, the water thereof conreied by the said sluce into the channel, increaseth daily. If the water reacheth only to the fifteenth cubit of the said piller, they hope for a fruitful yeere following; but if stayeth between the twelfth cubit and the fifteenth, then the increase of the ycere will prove but mean; if it resteth between the tenth and twelfth cubits, then it is a sign that corne will be solde ten ducates the bushel.” Malone.
-the mean,) i. e. the middle. Steevens. 8 Or foizon, follow :) Foizon is a French word signifying plenty, abundance. I am told that it is still in common use in the North.
See Vol. II, p. 54, n. 6. Steevens.
Ant. Ay, Lepidus.
Lep. Your serpent of Egypt is bred now of your mud by the operation of your sun: so is your crocodile.
Ant. They are so.
Lep. I am not so, well as I should be, but I'll ne'er out.
Eno. Not till you have slept; I fear me, you 'll be in, till then.
Lep. Nay, certainly, I have heard, the Ptolemies' pyramises are very goodly things;' without contradiction, I have heard that. Men. Pompey, a word.
Say in mine ear: What is 't? Men. Forsake thy seat, I do beseech thee, captain,
[Aside. And hear me speak a word. Pom.
Forbear me till anon. This wine for Lepidus.
Lep. What manner o' thing is your crocodile?
Ant. It is shaped, sir, like it self; and it is as broad as it hath breadth: it is just so high as it is, and moves with its own organs: it lives by that which nourisheth it; and the elements once out of it, it transmigrates.
Lep. What colour is it of?
9 I have heard the Ptolemies' pyramises are very goodly things ;] Pyramis for pyramid was in common use in our author's time. So, in Bishop Corbet's Poems, 1647 :
“ Nor need the chancellor boast, whose pyramis
“ Above the host and altar reared is.” From this word Shakspeare formed the English plural, pyramnises, to mark the indistinct pronunciation of a man nearly intoxicated, whose tongue is now beginning to “split what it speaks." In other places he has introduced the Latin plural pyramides, which was constantly used by our ancient writers. So, in this play:
“My country's high pyramides ” Again, in Sir Aston Cockain's Poems, 1658:
“ Neither advise I thee to pass the seas,
“ To take a view of the pyramides." Again, in Braithwaite's Survey of Histories, 1614: “Thou art now for building a second pyramides in the air. Malone.
1 And hear me speak a word.] The two last syllables of this hemistich are, I believe, an interpolation. They add not to the sense, but disturb the measure. Steevens.
Lep. 'Tis a strange serpent.
Ant. With the health that Pompey gives him, else he is a very epicure. · Pom. [To Menas aside.] Go, hang, sir, hang! Tell
me of that? away! Do as I bid you. Where 's this cup I call'd for?
· Men. If for the sake of merit thou wilt hear me, Rise from thy stool.
I think, thou 'rt mad. The matter?
[Rises, and walks aside. Men. I have ever held my cap off to thy fortunes. Pom. Thou hast serv'd me with much faith : What's
else to say? Be jolly, lords. Ant.
These quick-sands, Lepidus,
Men. Wilt thou be lord of all the world?
What say'st thou? Men. Wilt thou be lord of the whole world? That's
But entertain it, and,
Hast thou drunk well?
Show me which way. Men. These three world-sharers, these competitors, Are in thy vessel : Let me cut the cable;5
the tears of it are wet.] “ Be your tears wet?” says Lear to Cordelia, Act IV, sc. vii. Malone.
or sky inclips,]i. e. embraces. Steevens.
competitors,] i. e. confederates, partners. See Vol. II, p. 183, n. 4.
Let me cut the cable;] So, in the old translation of Plutarch: “ Now in the middest of the feast, when they fell to be merie with Antonius loue vnto Cleopatra, Menas the pirate came to Pompey, and whispering in his eare, said unto him: shall I
And, when we are put off, fall to their throats:
Ah, this thou should'st have done,
[Aside. I 'll never follow thy pallid fortunes? more.. Who seeks, and will not take, when once 'tis offer'd, Shall never find it more. Pom.
This health to Lepidus. Ant. Bear him ashore. I'll pledge it for him, Pompey, Eno. Here 's to thee, Menas. Men.
Enobarbus, welcome, Pom. Fill, till the cup be hid. Eno. There's a strong fellow, Menas.
[Pointing to the Attendant who carries off LEP. Men,
cut the gables of the ankers, and make thee Lord not only of Sicile and Sardinia, but of the whole empire of Rome besides ! Pompey hauing pawsed a while vpon it, at length aunswered him: thou shouldest haue done it, and neuer hüve told it me, but now we must content vs with that we haue. As for my selfe, I was neuer taught to breake my faith, nor to be counted a traitor.” Steevens. 6 All there is thine. ] Thus the old copy. Modem editors read :
All then is thine. If alteration be necessary, we might as well give: All theirs is thine. All there, however, may mean, all in the vessel. Steevens.
thy palld fortunes -] Palled, is vapid, past its time of excellence; palled wine, is wine that has lost its original spright. liness. Johnson.
Palled is a word of which the etymology is unknown. Perhaps, says Dr. Johnson, in his Dictionary, it is only a corruption of paled, and was originally applied to colours. Thus, in Chaucer's Manciple's Prologue, v. 17,004:
“So unweldy was this sely palled ghost.” Steevens. Who seeks, and will not take, when once 'tis offer'd,
Shall never find it more.] This is from the ancient proverbial rhyme :
“ He who will not, when he may,
Eno. Dri thou; increase the reels.2
Ant. It ripens towards it.-Strike the vessels,3 ho!
I could well forbear it.
Be a child o' the time.
9 The third part then is drunk: 'Would it were all, &c.] The olü copy reads—The third part then he is drunk, &c. The context clearly shows that the transcriber's ear deceived him, and that we should read as I have printed it,—The third part then is drunk. Malone.
1 That it might go on wheels.'] The World goes upon Wheels, is the title of a pamphlet written by Taylor the water-poet. Malone.
increase the reels.] As the word-reel, was not, in our
“ Drink thou, and grease the wheels."
with liquorish draughts &c.
greases his pure mind,
Strike the vessels,] Try whether the casks sound as
I believe, strike the vessels means no more than chink the res.
" And let me the cannikin clink.” Ritson.
“ Give me the cups;
“ And let the kettle to the trumpet speak.”